RIVER, MOUNTAIN and DESERT: A Syrian Journey
A journey on horseback through the rich and varied landscapes of Syria: starting in the Orontes Valley, with its lush cornfields, Roman water wheels and Crusader/Arab castles; through the coastal mountain range of stone walled terraces and Mediterranean-type villages; and finally the long road south through the fringes of the Syrian Desert, past the Christian villages around Ma’alloula (where Aramaic is still spoken) and down to Damascus, the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city. The companionship of an Arab stallion and the generous hospitality of a people for whom the law of the desert still holds strong.
Travels in the regions most heavily disputed in the civil war – those of Sunni Moslems, Alawis, Ismai’ilis, Greek Catholics, Syrian Orthodox Christians and Assyrians – form a poignant memoir of Syria at peace, with all ethnicities and faiths living in harmony; a social fabric now under threat of permanent destruction.
CELESTIAL HORSES: Travels in Turkestan
Central Asia through a camera lens, re-inventing itself after Independence from the Soviet Union. A journey around the great Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. The present-day role of the Turcoman Horse – Akhal-Teke and other strains – and the story of one special horse; his Silk Road journey from Nisa to Merv, his subsequent starvation and rescue, and his “Thank you”: an epic fund-raising marathon for medical research. And the extraordinary story of how his breeder, Geldy Kyarizov, also the man who organised the horse’s export to Russia (and thus to Britain), came to be in a concentration camp – and escape with his life. (www.geldy.co.uk)
A unique glimpse of Central Asia in the brief “window” between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the steady rise of even more controlling regimes.
STEPPE by STEPPE: Travels in Mongolia
A journey in Mongolia a few years after the fall of Communism. A look at the emergence of a new state and its relationship with the old, including the National Festival of Wrestling, Archery and Horse-Racing; travels by truck, jeep and horse to meet the Reindeer People of Mongolia’s far north; a visit to the re-introduction site of the Przewalski Horse, extinct in the wild for a quarter-century; and the resurgence of Buddhism, the former national religion of Mongolia.
IRON ROAD TO SAMARKAND: A Trans-Caspian Journey
Across the Caspian Sea into Central Asia, following the Trans-Caspian railway via ancient Silk Road cities to the fabled capital of Tamerlane’s mediaeval empire. Places and stories of the Great Game – the espionage war over Central Asia, Afghanistan and the borders of India – between Britain and Russia in the nineteenth century.
A journey undertaken by few Europeans in the last hundred years.
SCORCHED EARTH: Bedouin of the Syrian Desert
On and around the Hamad, a plateau which is part of the Badiat ash-Sham (Syrian Desert), bedouin of the Bani Khaled farm dairy sheep to produce cheese. This is the record of a journey starting from Palmyra (the spectacular Roman site so tragically destroyed by ISIS) and crossing the Hamad to the Jordanian border, including a period spent living with the bedouin. It follows the fortunes of the Bani Khaled through the springs of two years, during which time terrible drought has come to threaten their entire way of life.
All the above last for 45 mins – one hour, or as requested. Details may be varied to suit the interest of a particular audience – e.g. horses, history, travel in general. I bring my travel books for sale. Details of and extracts from the books, as well as photographs, are available at www.scimitarpress.co.uk/books
Other requirements are a screen or blank wall and a table for book display. Please note the necessity to darken the room! (I have a small screen which I can provide if notified beforehand.)
I can usually be available at short notice in the event of cancellation by other speakers.